We live in an age when it is not uncommon to check the times of trains, the number of steps we’ve taken and what our friends are up to on our phones, and so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t find it useful to check the state of the city’s roads.
It’s revealed today that the city council has been given £285,000 for a network of sensors around Portsmouth which will be used to provide real-time information about traffic problems.
And one way it could be relayed is through an app on people’s phones, although the finer details of that are yet to be ironed out.
It makes a lot of sense – why wouldn’t you want to know quickly and instantly, for example, that Eastern Road is blocked and so you should head to the motorway instead?
However, while smarter use of technology is always a step forward, and will help, we hope that this scheme is not seen as a panacea for all Portsmouth’s congestion problems.
Fundamentally the problem in this city is that there are too many cars for the space available. That’s the root of the parking problems seen across the area, and also why the city locks up if there is a major incident on any of the major roads and motorways.
And while traffic information is useful – else there would not be millions of satnavs on the roads – from local and national government we need to see a concerted effort to reduce the need for a private cars, through better public transport and more encouragement of cycling and walking.
We know that such matters are being looked at, and it was only last autumn that the Solent LEP produced its traffic plan for the region with much-improved train and bus connections between coastal cities. And that is the way to make life better for the legions of M27 commuters who find themselves trapped in three lanes every time there is a minor shunt in the morning, or the shoppers backed up on the M275 trying to make it to Gunwharf on a Saturday.
A city-wide information system is useful, sure; but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it will only ever be a sticking plaster over a more fundamental problem.